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Minister: Upcoming Meeting to Focus on Vaccines and Essential Goods

Ministers Responsible for Trade Chair Wellington, New Zealand | 03 June 2021

New Zealand’s Trade and Export Growth Minister Damien O’Connor will chair the Virtual APEC Ministers Responsible for Trade (MRT) meeting this Saturday, 5 June.

The meeting will focus on trade’s vital role in enabling access to vaccines and essential goods and keeping the global trading system flowing smoothly.

“The Asia-Pacific is confronted by the greatest health and economic crisis of our lifetimes, and unprecedented uncertainty as economies continue to struggle to bounce back from COVID-19,” Minister O’Connor said. “These are problems that demand APEC’s cooperative response.”

“We know nobody is safe until everybody is safe from COVID-19, and we know that trade has a vital role to ensure our region prospers economically by keeping our markets open to one another rather than closing ourselves off,” Minister O’Connor added.

“Responsibility falls to New Zealand as this year’s host economy to lead an APEC 2021 agenda that responds to these challenges, as well as our responsibility for ensuring a sustainable recovery.”

“I will be asking APEC Trade Ministers to accelerate access to vaccines and other goods essential in fighting the pandemic, by streamlining and speeding up related trade procedures.”

The Ministers Responsible Trade meeting will focus on two key priorities:

  • Trade’s role in responding to COVID-19; and
  • Supporting a World Trade Organization that provides predictable trade rules for business.

Minister O’Connor highlighted that there have been worrying trends of vaccine protectionism and increasingly restricted supply chains affecting the flow of goods and services around the world.

The latest report by the APEC Policy Support Unit showed that while the average tariff on vaccines is very low within APEC (only 0.8 percent), tariffs are much higher for several goods that are very important in the vaccine supply chain.

New Zealand will be asking for member economies’ cooperation on how to eliminate barriers to trade in essential goods and services that are important to sustainable recovery.  Ministers will have discussions on how to rejuvenate the World Trade Organization to provide consistent and transparent trade rules as well as on what contribution trade policy can make to respond to environmental problems like climate change and over-fishing.

A day before the meeting, APEC trade ministers will also join with business leaders to tackle big trade challenges at this critical time.

“The choices we make right now matter. I hope we can look back at this time and know that APEC Trade Ministers took the opportunity to join, work and grow together, to provide vital support our region’s recovery, and to lay the foundations for a better future,” Minister O’Connor said.

For further details, please contact:

Cas Carter +64 21 341 509 at [email protected] (in New Zealand)
Sidah Russell +64 21 359 235 at [email protected] (in New Zealand)
Masyitha Baziad +65 9751 2146 at [email protected]
Michael Chapnick +65 9647 4847 at [email protected]